Wednesday, 30 November 2016

October and November

Where has the time gone? It's been ages since I have posted, although I have continued both sewing and knitting all be it at a slower pace. Previously, I used to have days or a week of frenzied sewing but these days I have to try and fit it around a small person. Little A is getting bigger and needs more entertaining these days so I cannot focus solely on sewing or knitting any more.  

We've finally moved into our new house. It was a bit surreal at first, having not lived in our own space since Uni (10 years ago!!) but I'm enjoying it immensely. We've decorated and I love living in a space which is so aesthetically pleasing to me. It turns out my tastes naturally tend to mid-century vintage - teak furniture, geometric prints and lots of teal, yellow and grey. Above is a picture of the dining area in our kitchen. I've had great fun unpacking all our belongings from storage, including our wedding presents. My favourite thing is our cutlery set - it's so bright and really cheers me up, I love using it.

Anyways, I thought very briefly about making my own curtains but soon realised this wasn't feasible with a baby and 7 pairs of curtains to create. So I bought ready-made, but the problem is our windows our not standard sizes (thanks to my architect husband) and so every single pair of curtains needs altering in some way. It's a nightmare!

So the reason I haven't been able to post is because I've been in curtain altering hell, which is not a great place to be. I've gone on strike currently and am planning to fit in some much needed projects for me. I have managed to get some time every evening with my knitting projects and will update on those soon!

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Beginning Miette

I posted about my struggles with knitting in a post last week. I am again attempting to knit the Miette Cardigan by Andi Satterlund following on from my previous failed version.

My yarn arrived last Monday. This time I will be using Cascade 220 in Azala, which is the closest match to the recommended yarn for the pattern, Cascase Sierra, that I could find. This is a worsted weight yarn and so knits up differently to the DK I had previously been using.

The first thing I needed to do once my yarn had arrived, is wind the skeins into balls. I had previously read somewhere about the danger of knitting directly from a skein as it gets all tangled. I followed this handy tutorial by Not So Granny. It was easy to do but very time consuming, so I only wound the one skein- when I run out I'll wind another.

My mistake with my previous Miette was using the wrong yarn, which would have been glaringly obvious if I had knitted a swatch. Having truly learnt my lesson, my first step in this project was to knit a tension swatch. The pattern calls for 16 stitches and 22 rows across a 10 cm square, however Cascade 220 has a slightly larger tension of 18-20 stitches across 10 cm.

I cast on 30 stitches and continued until my swatch was about 12 cm in length. After measuring I found that I had 20 stitches and 26 rows in my 10 cm square - too big for the pattern and my cardigan would have been too big. After consulting with a knitting friend, she recommended knitting another tension square using a smaller needle. I used a 4.5 mm needle and made a smaller swatch, which measured 21 stitches - only slightly smaller. I decided it wasn't worth going down in the needle size and so am knitting the smallest version with a bust size of 32". Hopefully this should give me the correct fit,

So far, I have cast on and have completed the first 7 rows. I have pledged to myself that I will do a little bit of knitting every day, even if it is just 1 or 2 rows. My aim is to complete the cardigan ready for our holiday to Spain at the end of November.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Knitting Fail

My knitting projects take me a lot longer to complete than my sewing projects. I tend to start them and then pick up and put down my knitting when my mood takes me. I started knitting the Miette Cardigan by Andi Satterlund at the beginning of the year. The mood stuck me and so one day I grabbed the yarn and the pattern and got started.

The yarn was on its second incarnation, as I had previously started knitting the Simple Round Neck Sweater from Learn to Knit, Love to Knit by Anna Wilkinson. The problem is that this yarn just does not suit this knit. The yarn in question is Stylecraft Life DK in purple heather, which has a gauge of 22 sticthes to 30 rows for a 10cm square. The Miette pattern on the other hand, calls for a gauge of 16 stitches to 20 rows and recommends using Cascade Sierra. It was never going to work, so sadly I have had to ditch this project.

I have learnt a few things from this failed project: always, ALWAYS start with a tension square to check gauge and that I am able to knit a garment (or at least half). I actually managed to get most of the way down the bodice and so I am feeling confident that I am skilled enough to attempt this pattern now that I have mastered some of the techniques.

I have decided to try this knitting pattern again, however this time I will be using the correct yarn! Since Cascade Sierra is now discontinued, I will be using Cascade 220 in Azala. I've gone for a vibrant pink shade which I currently do not have in my rainbow collection of cardigans. I'm excited to get started and am just waiting for my yarn to be delivered - I will update on my progress in due course!   

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Autumn and Winter Sewing Plans

The summer is coming to an end and soon we will be exchanging summer dresses and sandals for winter dresses and boots. I've been taking stock of my wardrobe, looking for gaps and deciding what garments I could add for the autumn and winter. Here's my current wishlist of garments I would like to make:

1. Black denim skirt

I received a copy of Simple Sew's Chelsea pattern collection with issue 29 of Love Sewing magazine. I love all the patterns in this collection, but what caught my eye is version A of the skirt. There is a lovely denim version in the magazine and I really want one in black denim. This would match a lot of my t-shirts and cardigans and would be great with tights and my tan closed-toe clogs. The magazine includes instructions for flatfelled seams, which would be a nice detail on this skirt and a new technique for me.

2. Collette Wren wrap dress

I've been on the search for dresses and tops suitable for breastfeeding and came across the Wren dress by Colette patterns. This wrap style dress features two types of skirts and comes with 4 different sleeve variations, so is a very versatile pattern. I have previously made Colette's Moneta dress (here and here) which have been worn many, many times and are now looking a bit tatty. I'm hoping the wren dress will also become a much loved part of my wardrobe.

3. Sewaholic Belcarra blouse

I currently don't have a go to pattern for a simple woven t-shirt. I've been lusting after Sewaholic's Belcarra blouse blouse for a very long time. I love all three variations, including the cute pocket and the pintuck sleeves. I think this would look great tucked into skirts or worn loose with skinny jeans. I'm thinking this will be great in some bold patterns or prints.

4. GBSB Breton T-shirt

My husband bought me the book from series 4 of the Great British Sewing Bee: From Stitch to Style by Wendy Gardiner, as a treat shortly after I had my baby. I was immediately drawn to the Breton t-shirt and would love to add a few to my wardrobe. In particular, I like the cap sleeves which are part of the body of the t-shirt.  I really like the red short sleeve version in the picture and plan to make my own version!

5. Tilly and the Buttons Bettine dress

I've sewn quite a few patterns from Tilly and the Buttons but wasn't immediately sold on the Bettine dress. I usually go for full or A line skirts, so the tulip skirt didn't appeal to me. However, I've recently purchased a ready-to-wear nursing dress in a similar shape with a scoop neck, tulip skirt and elasticated waist, which I love! This has made me re-think the Bettine dress. I love the pocket and cuff details and can see this in some lovely printed viscose.

6. Self drafted Modern Shirt Dress

It's probably obvious by now from my blog that I love a shirt dress. There are so many variations to shirt dresses that I never get bored. They can be dressed up or down, I can wear them to work and they are also breastfeeding appropriate. I love this modern version of the Shirt Dress which features in Issue 30 of Love Sewing magazine. It is a self-drafted pattern which intrigues me and I love the simple style. Again, I think this would be nice in a printed viscose or maybe some chambray.

7. Sew over it Tea Dresses

Tea dresses are another favourite of mine and I really like Sew Over It's patterns, although I have never made one. I love both the Doris Dress and the 1940's Tea Dress. Both dresses have a fitted bodice with vintage details and a plain skirt. I can't decide which pattern I prefer, but can envision them both in a floral ditsy print.

Starting from October, I plan to try and make a minimum of 1 garment a month. We are moving house at the end of this month so I won't have time for sewing at the moment as I am busy packing etc. I also have limited time for sewing, so this seems like a reasonable target.

What are your sewing plans for Autumn and Winter?  

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Navy Heart Clemence Skirt

I can't believe it's the end of August. The summer seems to have gone so quickly. Usually I would be planning for my return to school but this year I will be able to enjoy the late summer. One of the glaring holes in my current wardrobe are skirts. It's been so hot, I needed something cool to wear. 

I'm currently saving all my pennies for moving house, so haven't been able to buy any fabric. One of the only pieces of fabric I had left was 1.5 metres of this navy blue heart print. I bought this fabric on my trip to Walthamstow last year and it was originally intended to be another Tilly and the Buttons Mimi Blouse from Love at First Stitch. I was trying to figure out what sort of fabric would make a good skirt when I remembered I had this fabric!

The pattern I have used is the self-drafted Clemence pattern from Love at first Stitch. It was the ideal pattern as I only had 1.5 meters of fabric and I wouldn't need to trace out a correct size pattern, making it an easy make. Since I'm short on time these days, this helped cut down the tine it took me to cut and construct this skirt - I finished it in 3 days.

This is my second Clemence skirt, so I was familiar with the construction. I used French seams for the skirt seams, which give a neat finish. I had to sew this skirt over several days, doing a bit at a time to fit around the baby. This time I used my invisible zip foot, which I had forgotten I had but found when I was looking for my regular zip foot. 

I'm pleased with the finished skirt. The construction of my garments seem to be getting neater, which is either due to experience or because I am having to take my time. The fit of the skirt is good, however the waist is slightly loose since I first made it. 

I've since worn this skirt a few times, including a camping trip. It is very comfortable to wear and I will also be good to wear in the autumn and winter with tights, boots and a cardi.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Nursing clothes

The baby is currently asleep on me, so I have a chance to write a post I've been meaning to for a while on ... nursing clothes.

Before I was pregnant I didn't really think what my post pregnancy wardrobe was going to look like. I naively thought that I would just slip back into my old clothes after a couple of weeks. In reality, my body is not the same- I am left with a rounded tummy and my waist/bust measurements are no longer the same. I guess I should try some combination of diet/exercise to slim back down but at the moment I just don't have the energy for all that. So my first problem is that none of my lovely me-made clothes fit.

My second problem is breastfeeding. My little boy is a proper milk monster and needs feeding regularly at all hours of the day. This means that I need access to my boobies and have found that most of my clothes either do not have boob access or don't fit at the moment. It was obvious that new clothes would be needed.

So there's the problem and to solve this I did what all normal people do ... I googled. Here's a summary of the solutions I found to my nursing clothes problem:

1. The two t-shirts trick

One of the most common solutions, is the two t-shirt trick: basically, you wear a strappy vest under a slightly bigger outer t-shirt or top. The idea is that when you want to feed the outer top goes up, the vest goes down to give boob access. The vest top manages to conserve your modesty and cover the mummy tummy. The benefit of this is that you can wear many of your current tops without having any extra expenditure. The downside is that this is hot- in the summer you don't really want to be wearing two layers, especially when you have a warm baby, a.k.a. a hot water bottle, attached to your front. I've tried this method, particularly with my Turquoise Tunic top and it just didn't really work for me.

2. Ready to wear nursing clothes

So I'm going to have to make a confession ... I had to buy some RTW clothes. If I had been less naive/ more organised I could have made nursing clothes before giving birth. However, this didn't happen so I ended up browsing online to buy some nursing clothes. From the high street shops, I highly recommend H&M for great quality basics, Asda also do a reasonably priced selection of nursing clothes and also New Look have a good range. Most of the ready made clothes have a double layer around the neckline/bust area, which means you can lower the front layer to nurse.

Clockwise, from top left: 1) Nursing Dress, H&M, 2) Black and white nursing t-shirts, H&M, 3) Two pack wrap nursing t-shirts, Asda and 4) Red Nursing t-shirt, Asda 

Obviously, for me the benefit of buying ready to wear clothes is that they are readily available and they are so much easier to breastfeed in discreetly when out and about. As someone who makes their own clothes obviously I don't feel that great about buying clothes and would prefer to make my own.

3. A cut out vest

I already have some tops and dresses that would be suitable for nursing, but I find they leave me a little too exposed for breastfeeding in public. Whilst browsing online, I discovered a tutorial for creating a no sew nursing top soluton that can be layered under other clothes. The idea is that you take a RTW vest (I had loads of old ones that I bought for £1 from primark) and cut two access circles around the boob area. 

These have been brilliant, meaning that I have been able to wear them under several of my existing tops/dresses, such as my navy tile print shirt dress and my two versions of a sleeveless shirt, to make them appropriate for nursing in.

4. Nursing Patterns

There are sewing patterns for nursing including the Amber Nursing dress/t-shirt by Megan Nielsen who also has a range of maternity patterns. There are also nursing/maternity patterns available by the big four pattern houses.

A good round up of indi nursing patterns and also hacks for non-nursing patterns is available on this blog. My issue with nursing patterns, is how much use will you get from a specific nursing sewing pattern? Although I suppose you could still wear the garment after you finish nursing I'm not sure that I would want to!

5. Non-nursing Patterns

My plan for sewing my own nursing wardrobe is to use sewing patterns that already have access for breastfeeding. Button down shirts or dresses, like  my navy tile print shirt dress, already have built in access. Another option are wrap tops or dresses. My favourites so far are the 1502 wrap top and dress by Threadcount Patterns and Colette's Wren wrap dress. The great thing about these patterns is that they would be suitable for nursing without any adaptations and I can still wear them after.  

So there we are! It's taken me several nap times to write this but hopefully someone will find this useful and I have found it helpful to document my. 

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Navy Tile Print Shirt Dress

One of the challenges of being a mum, aside from having a little person attached to you 24/7, is finding the right clothes. As a mum who is breastfeeding, where boobie access in a garment is paramount, this becomes even more difficult. One solution is a shirt dress.

I've had this fabric sitting around in my stash since I made a trip to Walthamstow market some time last year. It was always intended for a shirt dress,to add to my work wardrobe. I originally had the McCalls M6696 picked out following on from the black floral sleeveless version I made last year. However, since having a baby my waist mesurement is no longer the same, so I couldn't use my already cut out pattern pieces.

I instead chose to make this shirt dress by Threadcount. Ironically, I actually received this in my May subscription of Love Sewing magazine, which was brought into the hospital for me after I had given birth. I wasn't very sold on the image on the pattern, as I don't usually go for such a boxy shape with no fitting at the waist but decided to give this a go based on the photos in the magazine.  

I cut a size 12 on top, grading up to a size 14 at the hips and skirt. The fabric was some sort of viscose/poylester which was easy to cut out and work with. The instructions straight forward to follow and as I already have a fair amount of experience making shirts and shirt dresses, I was already familiar with the construction process of making a collar.


I made a few changes to the original pattern. The main one being that I shortened the sleeves, to make this dress summer appropriate and also a quicker make (no cuffs)! I shortened the length of the dress to make it knee length and also omitted some of the topstitching around the collar, as I couldn't be bothered. I used navy blue geometric printed buttons which I bought from my local fabric and haberdashery shop; I thought they matched the tile print nicely.

Although you can't see it, the construction of this dress went very well. I finished all the inside seams using my overlocker foot on my machine and the inside collar is slipstitched. My technique for sewing the collar and stand has really improved and is much more symmetrical now. I'm also pleased with the button placement on this dress.

I'm pleased with the finish of this dress. It looks nice on, it fits well and is comfortable to wear. I wear it with a belt in order to pull it in at the waist and this makes it feel more fitted. I wore this dress recently on a trip to London to go to Marcus Wearing's restaurant.  

I'm still very much liking shirt dresses, they feel comfortable and stylish and I love making them. I really want to have a go at the Cami dress by Pauline Alice or the Vintage Shirt Dress by Sew Over It.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Turquoise Bexley Tunic Top

Whilst waiting for my little boy to be born, way back in May, I occupied myself by sewing clothes for me to wear post-pregnancy. One of these is this beautiful turquoise tunic. 

The pattern is the Bexley Tunic from Issue 26 of Love Sewing Magazine. I wasn't that sold on the pattern to start with as it seemed a bit mumsy (ironic I know!) but I soon realised how useful this top would be post pregnancy. 

The fabric was once from my very small stash. I had previously blogged about this mystery turquoise fabric; one given to me by my Mum and another turquoise remnant I bought. 

I cut a size medium, based on my pregnancy bust size (I correctly assumed my increased bust size would still be around post-pregnancy). It was straight forward to construct, with a gathered front yoke and biased bound neckline, techniques which were not new to me. The fabric is quite delicate and did tend to fray quite a bit so I tried not to handle the pieces too much.  

The problem is, it's wayyy too big!!

I tried this top on whilst still pregnant and it fitted me then... I knew it was going to need some adjustment once I had slimmed down. There is a lot of room around the bust and hips.


After fiddling around a bit with pinning and trying on, I had to take 3 inches from each side hem and taper this up to the arms. It has left the hem slightly twisted and a tuck in the back hem, as I had to ensure that the front and back hem met up.

After pinning

I do really like some of the features of this top- the curved front yoke and the curved back hem. It fits ok, however, I really don't like how short it is across the front and the volume around the front. I feel that this makes me look bigger than I actually am. I haven't actually worn this yet as I don't feel that confident when I put it on.

I have another version of this top planned in some chambray and blue stripey cotton I have left over. I'm going to have a go at removing the gathering at the front yoke and re-designing the front hem so that it is curved in the same way as the back. Wish me luck!!

Friday, 19 August 2016

Cordelia Maternity Camisole

Long time, no post! Motherhood is keeping me busy- I've fitted in some sewing but no time for blogging. Here's a make from my pregnancy that I've been waiting to post!  

You might have seen that Zoe from 'So Zo...What do you know?' has recently released a new sewing pattern, the Cordelia Camisole Pattern. I was lucky enough to be selected as a pattern tester during the final trimester of my pregnancy.

The camisole uses only 1m of jersey fabric and approx 2m of fold over elastic. I made two versions. For the first I used a beautifully drapey silver slub jersey from Minerva Crafts which I paired with some silver fold over elastic by Prym.

The pdf pattern was easy to put together - I don't often use pdf patterns but this one didn't consist of too many pages. I cut a straight size 12 to accommodate my 37 week pregnancy bump.

I used a rotary cutter and tin-can weights to cut out the pieces, which helped keep this drapy jersey flat. It was very quick to cut - there were only four pieces including the optional bust support panel.

I decided to include the bust panel as the jersey was a bit see through. This has a bottom edge which is finished with fold over elastic. This was the first time I had used fold over elastic and I used a 3 step zig zag stitch which gives a nice finish. I didn't actually test it at all - I recklessly went straight for it and it worked out really well - no where near as hard as I thought!  

The only problem is that because I included the bust support panel and used up some of the fold over elastic, I didn't have enough for the straps. D'oh! So unfortunately, this still lingers in my unfinished objects pile, which is a shame as I love the fabric and it fitted so nicely!

A pic of my 38 week bump in my half-finished camisole 

So after my first attempt at the Cordelia camisole, I immediately (the same day!) began cutting out my second version. For this version, I had picked a red and blue stripy jersey also from Minerva Crafts and used some red fold over elastic from the same supplier.

This was slightly harder to cut as I tried to match the stripes as best as I could. I have decide that this is my preferred method for cutting fabric, as it is so quick and accurate. Unfortunately, due to the gathers at the side of the camisole it meant that when constructed the stripes did not completely match up but was still worth attempting. 

I found the construction easier second time around and this came together very quickly. I chose not to cut out the bust support panel this time, to ensure that I had enough fold over elastic. The fold over elastic straps were very easy to create and I liked the fact that I could adjust the length of them before I secured them to the back.

The fit of the camisole is good- it fits well over my bump. I would recommend using jersey with quite a bit of stretch to get the most out of your garment - this stripey jersey is not too stretchy and unfortunately didn't fit for very long, due to a rapidly growing bump.  

So, if any ladies out there are expecting, or knows anyone who is, I would highly recommend the Cordelia Camisole pattern. It was so so easy to put together, uses less than 1m of fabric and only 2.5m of fold over elastic. The techniques are easy, even if you have never sewn with jersey fabric before so this is a great quick project. 

I wrote this post before my baby was born, and looking back now I can't imagine being that big. It seems strange to see myself looking pregnant in pictures. My next post is also something I made pre-pregnancy.